The Write Stuff – Monday, November 23 – Interview With Will Hahn

Will Hahn is one of many authors I’ve had the privilege to meet through the Facebook group, Fantasy Sci-fi News Network. Among them, his writing stands out as especially crisp and refined. Will has been in love with heroic tales since age four, when his father read him the Lays of Ancient Rome and the Tales of King Arthur. He taught Ancient-Medieval History for years, but the line between this world and others has always been thin; the far reaches of fantasy, like the distant past, still bring him face to face with people like us, who have choices to make.

Will 6 web-FSFWill didn’t always make the right choices when he was young. Any stick or vaguely-sticklike object became a sword in his hands, to the great dismay of his five sisters. Everyone survived, in part by virtue of a rule forbidding him from handling umbrellas, ski poles, curtain rods and more.

Will has written about the Lands of Hope since his college days (which by now are also part of ancient history). His current epic is Judgement’s Tale; part one, Games of Chance, part two Strength of Conviction and part three, Reunion of Souls came out in 2014. Part four, Clash of Wills, was released on May 1, 2015.

I asked Will to give us a sense what Clash of Wills is about. He described it this way:

As the heavenly portents align, a mystic portal to the Hopeward opens again, letting a few goodly souls enter the prison where a comrade was marooned and evil beyond measure has laid a trap. For the heroes, it is not enough to uncover danger—wit and skill can carry them to its presence, but resolve and sacrifice are needed to defeat it. If it can be defeated. The challenge is often to choose one wrong over another, to accept the consequences when only the one prize most dear can be saved.

Treaman and his adventuring party discover just how quickly fame and fortune evaporate, once back in the clutches of the Percentalion; three miserable refugees of that chaos-cursed land will die unless the star-gazing preacher Alaetar can beat back the monsters at their heels.

And Solemn Judgement, the Man in Grey, faces an undead thane of ancient times; he must decide whether the only friends he has ever found will live, or if the Lands will again suffer the curse of Despair when facing the… Clash of Wills

Can you tell us a bit more about it?

In “Judgement’s Tale” the fate of the entire Lands of Hope falls into the path of a lone, determined orphan youth from beyond its borders. The liche Wolga Vrule has been plotting his escape for centuries, after which he will conquer the Percentalion,  Hope’s central kingdom. Vrule has an Earth Demon, Kog on his side, and has laid his traps with care. Solemn Judgement, on the other hand, is an orphan youth brought to this strange land by his father who died as they hit the shore. He studied long and hard without any guidance from his hosts; they took pains to hide his true power from him. Judgement simply wants to do the right thing by his friends, though this quest looked perilous from the start even in their ignorance of the true threat. But really, what chance could he have…

What was the biggest challenge you faced writing this book and how did you overcome it?

In chronicling this tale, I came to realize that events happening many leagues away, involving another group of heroes, were actually part of the story. So I wrote them in and at first all was well. The last third of the book, however, covers events occurring in several distant places, all on the same night of the year (more precisely, the same thirty-six hour period). I found it very hard to arrange the chapters to my liking, but thanks to the wizardry of word processing I could shuffle them like cards until I found the order I wanted. It was hard work, but in the end very satisfying.

What other novels have you written?

The focus of my chronicles to date has been around the start of the Age of Adventure, which sages put somewhere between 1995-1996 ADR (the calendar of the Lands of Hope). That’s when the events of Judgement’s Tale take place, and the actions of Solemn Judgement among others cause the end of the Age of Emptiness preceding it. My other chronicles to date have looked at the years 2001 and 2002 ADR: the former in The Plane of Dreams and the latter in the Shards of Light series (of which I have two novellas written to date). I also have smaller tales available today (referring to events in the earlier days of legend), and a free Compendium of information about the Lands on my website for those who like to geek out on the details.

Do you have any other books in the works?

I have two immediate projects. The sequel to Judgement’s Tale which concludes the saga of the Percentalion is The Eye of Kog, and I am drafting on that like a madman. I also have begun the third book of the Shards of Light series, called Perilous Embraces, which is probably the toughest challenge I’ve had since I began to chronicle this world. Both are about halfway done, but the former is twice as long so it’s getting the attention right now.

Are there any occupational hazards to being a novelist?

Almost everything in the Alleged Real World is a threat, frankly. Time demands come from everywhere, the home-office is full of noise, and I am easily distracted.

But far and away the biggest danger is cats. We have five right now (I blame my lovely wife), and they take turns jumping in my lap. There are days at a stretch where nothing gets done. It’s an epic struggle, I assure you!

What is the single most powerful challenge when it comes to writing a novel?

Finding the time. That towers over every other consideration, and it comes down to lack of discipline (which I dress up with a lot of “trusting my muse” nonsense). If I peck away for five minutes, tops, I find myself writing rather smoothly at least 90% of the time and I’m in the groove. And what comes off the keyboard is pretty polished, in the right order, etc. most of that time. Very rarely—as recently with my WiP—do I hit a rough patch where the writing is really slow. It’s just that I don’t get back to it. But even at worst, the story sits and gels waiting for me to return. Put another way, it’s always on my mind.

Do you have another job outside of writing?

I am a day-job dilettante, able to work from home on a flexible schedule which is a great blessing. I can crab all I want about slow progress on the chronicling, but that other job pays the bills. And since my daughter was home-schooled, the three of us have been together the whole time which is a great treasure. She’s off to college this fall, but still living at home! We stick with a winner around here.

Describe a typical day.

I’m up at 4:30 AM. Not because I’m an early riser, but because those darn cats will just start ripping furniture if they’re not fed. Then a quiet time until around 8, when I tackle the most urgent tasks at work and perhaps slip in some writing. The middle of the day is very choppy—homeschool is a misnomer, you need to drive all over for this lesson, that tutoring, etc. I also try to get up and walk around a bit so I don’t turn into that guy at the end of the evolution chart, the one marked “something went wrong”. In the evening, the ladies like to see reality shows and contests, while I sometimes sneak off to peck away some more. If I get my way, I go to bed absurdly early. But then I read.

I am the servant of a couple of cats and they have their own schedule as well. What motivates or inspires you, not necessarily as regards your writing?

It’s always been heroism that draws me. I don’t read the paper when some dope set a building on fire—I wait for the article a week later where they catch him. I love sports because the exertion and determination echoes heroic quality (and we all make heroes of sports stars, don’t we, and even movie stars). My taste in film, TV, and books all leans that way, and it was all I looked for when I studied history. Why stick your neck out? How many people against you is too many? What makes folks persevere (and how can I get me some of that)?

How do you pick yourself up in the face of adversity?

Simple, I compare to those around me. I live in a house with two cancer survivors. So the next time I fall behind on a project for work, or my shoulder hurts, or I wish I had enough money to buy something but don’t… it takes maybe three seconds to realize how good I’ve got it. The worst day always ends, and if my lovely wife and miracle daughter can do it, so can I.

Do you have any pet projects?

2015 is the Year of Local Presence for me. I have books coming out in paper now, thanks to my awesome publisher Katharina Gerlach. I toured the local library to give seminars, and there’s a book fair coming up. If I break in to the local papers or radio, I’ll consider it a true success (they’ve been hard!). Outside of that, I always have audiobooks to do (I love speaking the chronicles myself, and started on the second book in Shards of Light but need to get back to it). Not sure I can refer to the upcoming books in my mind (two novels and two novellas) as “projects”, more like “sentences”! But I’ll take my lumps like a man if I can just make progress.

I like to finish each interview with a Lightning Round. Please answer the following in as few words as possible:

My best friend would tell you I’m a … Cut-up. I hope!

The one thing I cannot do without is: My lovely wife Dorie. I would lock myself out of the house without her. Some days, she does it for me! But she always lets me back in later.

The one thing I would change about my life: I wouldn’t forget to apply for super-powers until it was evidently too late. I’d love to be like The Atom in the old DC comics.

My biggest peeve is: Anonymous bile. What’s the point of instantaneous communication if the only thing we do is blast-dehumanize anyone who disagrees with us?

The person/thing I’m most satisfied with is: My miracle daughter Genevieve Celeste, who encountered autism and leukemia and is at university now to study instrumental and vocal music performance. Boom, baby. That’s epic.

Thank you for spending time with us. I’ve been wanting to feature your work for some time now.

After the following excerpt from Clash of Wills, I’ll be providing social and book buy links for those who’d like to learn more about Will or purchase his work.

LoHI_JT_CoW_webAt the end of the pillared way, two stone arches stood on the left and right edges of the mesa, evidently leading to a drop and death in the chasm below. Between them, the rock floor rose several more steps to a dais twenty paces wide. There stood a tall robed being, in decayed dark robes bearing a scepter in his skeletal right hand.

His hood was back and the head was completely hairless. Not bald; the crown of his head looked as if it were no more a home for human hair than a marble bust. All his skin was dark and wizened beyond years, beyond parchment or wood; even the age-folds had flattened and died long ago. The eyes, as the three came closer, were strangely unremarkable, small and hard to see. In a moment, Cedrith realized they were only pupils, moving on stalks no longer covered with white vitreous jelly. Noseless, earless, lipless, the face was barely able to grin, which it did constantly. The teeth inside were small and horribly stained, but solid enough to clack with every movement of his jaw.

His frame was almost impossibly tall; standing on the dais he looked full seven feet high. The robes, richly decorated once with cloth-o-gold, seed pearls, silken swaths and hanging jewelry, had faded with the immense passage of time to look like soiled burlap. Under the bottom hem, the feet must still have been partially shod, but as he strode eagerly to the edge of the dais, the sound of his pace–a mixture of leather and bone and flesh–was horrible to hear. The scepter in his right hand was the only clean, undecayed facet of his entire appearance; black wood or iron with a flanged metal top, projecting wicked spikes to the outside while within an egg-sized gem reflected all the darkest hues of the rainbow.

He spoke, and both Cedrith and Natasha gasped at the shock of it; the sage fell to his knees and elbows, lashed with pain to hear a voice that should never speak. With desiccated lips, dried throat-chords, and just a nail-thin worm of a stump where his tongue should have been, the monstrous lord of evil yet spoke with perfect elocution, in powerful, dusty tones that reverberated as if they emanated from one side of him. It was all wrong, violently off, and Cedrith quietly murmured, begging him to stop with every word.

“You cannot imagine, I assure you, how very long I have awaited this moment. I am mortified–hah, yes! mortified indeed–not to have been able to come forward as would suit a proper host. But the rules, you see, are quite constraining. Still, you are here, at last, and destiny will be served. That is, indeed, the most important thing.”



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